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TALK OF THE TOWN: Celebrity haunt River Cafe ‘pockets waiters’ service charge’

TALK OF THE TOWN: Celebrity haunt River Cafe that charges £950 for a bottle of champagne ‘pockets waiters’ service charge’

It’s the celebrity haunt that charges £950 for a bottle of champagne and £26 for a plate of pasta – yet I hear that the River Cafe’s Left-leaning owner Ruth Rogers is leaving her staff short-changed.

I have learned of grumbling among waiters at the West London venue – which recently hosted U2 singer Bono’s 61st birthday party and counts supermodels Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid among its clientele – because the cafe does not share its optional 12.5 per cent service charge with staff.

Restaurants are not allowed to keep cash tips left for waiting staff but can take the service charge – now a more popular way for customers to thank staff as the use of cash is discouraged due to Covid.

At the River Cafe, a waiter says they now only take home about £20 a week each from cash left by diners.

It’s the celebrity haunt that charges £950 for a bottle of champagne and £26 for a plate of pasta – yet I hear that the River Cafe’s Left-leaning owner Ruth Rogers (above) is leaving her staff short-changed

Workers say they believe the money is classed as ‘revenue’ by champagne socialist Ruth, who became Baroness Rogers of Riverside when her architect husband Richard Rogers was ennobled in 1996. Staff would rather it was added to their shift rate of £87.

Last week a TripAdvisor review, which has since disappeared, claimed that the policy has been in place since before Covid. The reviewer, ‘Sinitta’, said: ‘I was appalled to discover service goes directly to management. Out of principle I refuse to return here. River Cafe should be ashamed.’

Michel Roux Jr faced criticism in 2016 after admitting he saw the charge ‘as revenue’ at his restaurant Le Gavroche.

Last week Tory MP Dean Russell tabled a ‘Tipping Bill’ that will prevent employers retaining tips and gratuities intended for staff.

At the River Cafe (above), a waiter says they now only take home about £20 a week each from cash left by diners

At the River Cafe (above), a waiter says they now only take home about £20 a week each from cash left by diners

With bottles of white wine costing up to £360, the River Cafe, where Jamie Oliver trained, is likely to be accumulating thousands in service charges every week. One informant tells me: ‘Some tables spend about £5,000. The amount of extra revenue that is generated… I just don’t understand where it goes.’

Lady Rogers, whose mother was a stalwart trade unionist, was awarded the CBE in the 2020 Birthday Honours list for services to the culinary arts and charity.

A River Cafe spokesman said its staff were guaranteed the London minimum wage.

I’m afraid Virginia is not the only person to lose a castle. 

Supermodel Jacquetta Wheeler and her sisters Charlotte and Sarah have moved out of their £15 million family home, Chilham Castle in Kent, after it was sold.

As I revealed earlier this year, proceeds of the sale are going to charity, as decreed in the will of their father, betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler.

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